Posts tagged: Laptop

SSD Drive Characteristics – cont.

By , August 22, 2009 12:11 pm

This is part 2 (finally) of my experiment with using an SSD as my main drive for my laptop. If you want to read part 1 first, go here SSD versus 7200rpm Drive. In this installment I wanted to share with you some telling charts about the characteristics of an SSD drive. As you may know, SSD drives have great read access times. It’s almost instantaneous as you don’t have to wait for a mechancal drive head and the spindles to spin up.

Here I have 2 charts that show read and write times for two 256G drives. One is a fast 7200rpm mechanical drive and the other is the GSKILL SSD. The program I used basically exercises the entire drive and records the time to read and write to each sector. Here’s what each of the lines mean.

Blue Line – Access/Transfer times
Yellow Dot – Read times across the drive.

7200 RPM MECHANICAL DRIVE:

A Standard 7200rpm drive

A Standard 7200rpm drive

Let’s analyze this first chart. As you can see, it’s very linear and predictable. As we move farther out in the drive sectors, the access times slows down a bit. Similarly, the read times increase (yellow dots) over time as we get farther out in the drive.

256G GSKILL SSD:

The SSD drive is a bit erratic, but read times are great!

The SSD drive is a bit erratic, but read times are great!


In this chart we see a lot of weird behavior. The blue line shows that while mostly fast, there are time when there’s a drastic drop in the transfer speed of the drive. It seems to be consistently slow at set intervals. I beleive this is the “stuttering” problem that you may have heard of as the drive controller get overloaded. Although normally very fast at 100MB or more, there are several times where it drops down to the 50MB and less. This is worse than the mechanical drive at these points!

However if you look at the read times (Yellow Dots) you can see that reads are instantaneous. In fact, you may have missed the dots as then are all along the x-axis at the bottom. The average access times are under half a mili-second! That’s pretty much instantaneous to us humans.

CONCLUSION:
So there you have it. Proof positive that this particular SSD is not going to be the overall excellent performer when compared to a fast 7200 rpm mechanical drive. In the end, I sold this SSD and went back to a standard drive. I hear that the Samsung and Intel drives have remedied the problems I see here, but at $800-1000 they are not going to be in my laptop anytime soon. I will wait until they drop to about half that, and then I’ll do this all over again.

SSD versus 7200rpm Disk Drive

By , May 31, 2009 12:32 pm

This is a continuation of my previous post regarding my experiences with the 256GB SSD drive my Dell laptop entitled “Are Solid State Drives Worth the Money?”. The installation was easy enought, now we get to the business of making it perform.

Optimizing the Drive
Without getting into too much gory details, the basic premise in optimizing a SSD is that you do NOT want to have unnecessary disk operations. Since reads are so fast and instantaneous almost anywhere on the disk, things like file fragmentation do not matter. So you start to tweak anything that writes to the disk. Here’s a quick list of things to look at when using XP.

  • Turn off automatic disk defrag.
  • Eliminate the pagefile operations.
  • Set up a RAM Disk for temp files.

The last tip works no matter what drive you are using. If you have lots of memory (3-4G) I would recommend that you set this up anyway.

The Results
So I ran an harddisk performance testing tool, first against my 7,200rpm 250GB laptop drive and got this graph.

7,200rpm 256GB Mechanical Drive test results

7,200rpm 256GB Mechanical Drive test results

This would become our baseline for the comparison. After installing the 256GB SSD I ran the exact same test and got these results.

G.SKILL 256GB SSD Drive results

G.SKILL 256GB SSD Drive results

So taking a closer look, there’s not a humongous difference in the two. In fact the SSD writes small files a little faster (.641 secs compared to 1.063 seconds) and file delete and directory lookup speeds are faster by a good margin. Upon close inspection, I am surprised that a lot of other items are not that different! In fact, the large file write speed is worse!

We could go on doing a big analysis on all these numbers, but in the end I wasn’t ecstatic. Coupled with the fact that my battery life actually dropped by 30 minutes (SSD is always on whereas mechanical drive can spin down and other power saving tricks), this wasn’t turning out to be worth the 6X investment. You see, you can get a 250GB mechanical drive for $100, but this 256GB SSD was close to $600 used on eBay!

Perhaps I need to try another brand of SSD. I hear good things about the Samsung, but it costs $800. I’ll wait until they drop down in to the $600 range and perhaps I’ll try again. For now, I’ll have to live with the sounds of a mechanical drive. The best thing about the SSD? It was silent and I love my quiet office.

Silicon Sheet Keyboard Condom

By , May 19, 2009 7:52 am

Here’s something a bit weird and wonderful. I saw these keyboard protectors for sale. They protect your laptop from food, spills, and dust. Since it was so cheap at $7, I thought I would give it a go.

This label has sime odd translations on it.

This label has sime odd translations on it.

I prepped it by dusting off the keyboard and then I just laid it on top. It’s not the most attractive thing, but we’ll see if it’s a keeper. I’m usually pretty careful not to eat or drink directly over my laptop, but you never know.

Also notice the funny benefits that are on the package. It’s another case of something being slightly lost in translation.

  • Made the best Japanese Silicon, soft touch
  • It is flexible, easily fixed and helps muffle typing noises.
  • Make you enjoy foods while operating your PC
  • It is washable and Make virus away from your fingers.

So how does it all work out in the end? Not so sure. It fits well enough, but the plastic isn’t exactly clear so it picks up a lot of reflections in overhead lights. I have a backlit keyboard, so the reflection is less of a problem when it’s dim and the backlight comes on. Also, it’s kinda stick and makes the typing experience very odd. My fingers don’t glide from key to key as easily when typing quickly.

Although it protects, it also makes it harder to see your keys.

Although it protects, it also makes it harder to see your keys.

I first saw these when a friend of mine from Singapore was using it on her Toshiba. It seemed a good idea at the time. it does protect from spills and dust. Somehow, it reminds me of the plastic that comes on some car seats or furniture. It may be functional, but I think you should take it of before you actually use it. So overall, I think this classifies as a “FAIL” for me. It’s coming off soon.

Are Solid State Drives Worth the Money?

By , May 18, 2009 9:38 am

Solid State Drives (SSD) are said to be the future of storage. They are mostly in premium laptops and servers and can cost quite a bundle. Samsung seems to lead the pack with their 256GB SSD drives for roughly $800-1000. Now with Tera-byte hard drives running less than $100 these days, can an SSD be worth the premium? How fast are they really? This is part 1 of a series where I’ll try it out on my laptop and report the results. I wasn’t willing to pay $1000 for a SSD, but a new entry in to the 256GB fray appeared and caught my interest. It was about half the price of the Samsung and seemed to have avoided a lot of the issues that had been reported regarding the “lower” priced drives. You see, a drive controller from JMicron seems to be very common in value priced SSD drives and has various issues with “stuttering”. Basically the data bus of the controller is overwhelmed and everything will freeze for a moment. This can become very annoying. Along comes G.Skill. G.SKILL 256GB SSD A Taiwanese company claimed to have solved the stuttering issue with a drive which utilized 2 drive controllers running in a RAID configuration with two 128GB SSD drives. Combining them together gave 256GB. I did some digging and came up with a drive for well under $500, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Amazing small form factor and light as a feather

Amazing small form factor and light as a feather

The drive arrived very well packaged and looking tiny and discrete. It’s a 2.5″ drive and weighs so little that you wonder if there’s anything in it. Installation on my DELL laptop was a snap. It was literally 3 screws. Two screws to unfasten the the drive from the laptop. Then another screw to fasten the holder onto the drive so that I could slide it into the laptop. DELL get high marks for easy accessibility with their E6400 series. But we are getting ahead of ourselves here. I had to prepare the drive before putting it into the laptop. Again, that was remarkable easy. I bought an external USB enclosure for the drive. Then using a free program called XXClone I made a bootable image of my notebook drive. Commercial break here, XXClone is wonderful. I’ve paid for Norton Ghost and and Acronis, etc. and none of them workes as well as this FREE program. Highly recommended.

So it basically took me three hours to backup my laptop drive, clone it onto the SSD, and then install the SSD into the laptop and reboot. The longest part was backing up my entire drive to another USB drive.  It was actually a pretty painless process. It was as easy as upgrading my MacBook Pro to a faster and larger drive, but that’s a story for another day. OK, Part 2 of this series will be all about optimizing your system for an SSD. There are quite a few steps here. Check back in a few days.

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